The Call: My introduction to the spirit world

The ways of spirit are mysterious. Couple that with my tendency to be kind of dense and you’ve got yourself a recipe for utter bewilderment. Such was the case when the spirits came knocking on my door about 12 years ago. At the time, not only was I oblivious to the ‘call,’ but I didn’t even know I had answered. Instead, I just wrote the whole thing off as a very strange experience.

The call came one weekend morning after I was awakened by the sound of my neighbor’s lawnmower. I squinted to make out the numbers on my digital clock and saw that it was 7:57.

Wow, I thought, is that seriously a lawn mower? I listened closer and confirmed that it was indeed a lawnmower. Then I heard the neighbor kids laughing and playing outside my window. If my memory serves me correctly, I may have been slightly irritated. It was, after all, Saturday morning and I believe there should be laws prohibiting lawn mowing and general merrymaking before ten o’clock in the morning.

Hoping that I might be able to squeeze in a little more sleep, I closed my eyes. But instead of sleep I had an experience that not only captured my attention, but quietly haunted me for years to come.

Within seconds of closing my eyes I found myself looking out of someone else’s. It was as if I was a vicarious invisible hitchhiker eavesdropping on someone’s experience. I was immediately fascinated. I concluded that this person was a young woman and noted that she felt completely unfamiliar to me. Through her eyes I looked down and saw that she had pale skin and was wearing what looked like a light blue hospital gown and surgical booties. Her long brown wavy hair was disheveled. She was in shackles and was being escorted by two men down a long institutional-looking hallway. It was then that I knew that she was about to be executed.

My conscious mind was really struggling to understand what I was experiencing and kept insisting that I was dreaming. As I recall, that part of me was arguing with itself and the argument went something like this:

Yeah well, if you were dreaming you wouldn’t be able to hear the lawnmower, would you?

It was true, I could.

And if you wanted you could open your eyes just a little and see the morning light in your bedroom.

So I opened my eyes slightly and sure enough, my bedroom was bathed in sunlight.

After my very empirically sound assessment of the situation, I came to the conclusion that I was quite awake and in the midst of a bizarre experience. I wasn’t scared, but I was intensely curious about the mysterious dream woman who was being led to her death. So I shifted my focus back to her.

She was farther down the hallway now. She glanced to the left and saw a window that looked into to a room where a group of people were talking. I could hear their mumbled voices.

The scene suddenly shifted and we were looking into the anguished face of an older dark haired man. As my brain wrestled to recognize this man I could see his unfamiliar features morph into familiar ones. To me, he became a guy I knew from my kung fu school. I realized that I was seeing one of this woman’s recent memories. The man was filled with intense grief as he said his final goodbye to the young woman. I felt her emotions begin to bubble, but then, as if flipping a switch, she turned them off and was emotionally numb. Her emotional distance appeared to fill the man with even more sadness. I got the impression that her name was something like Christina or Catherine.

Meanwhile . . . my brain was chattering away in the background continuing to try to make sense of this experience. Who is this woman? When did this happen? I’ll have to do an internet search to see if this woman is a real person. And through it all I could still hear the lawn mower.

I shifted my focus back to the vision and discovered that the woman could no longer see. It was as if she was wearing some sort of dark hood or blindfold. She was sitting in a hard, uncomfortable chair. I felt a spike in her panic and I realized that she was going to be electrocuted. I felt cold braces fasten tightly over her limbs. I could hear people talking, but I was too tangled in her anxiety to hear what they were saying.

Some time passed and then I heard a loud click which was followed by a low level buzzing and a slight vibration. This lasted for about 10 seconds and stopped. It was silent and I was aware of the thought, ‘Please get it over with.’ The click sounded again – this time the vibration and buzzing built quickly and became quite loud. I could feel the small hairs on the woman’s body rise as the current filled her. Her body started to twitch and convulse violently. From deep within her gut came an involuntary moan that was unlike anything I’d ever heard. It didn’t sound human.

Through all this there was no pain. There was a moment of void – of separation. I still couldn’t see. I felt like I was floating up and then I had a feeling of vastness. I was surrounded by what I can only describe as bright velvety darkness. It wasn’t frightening at all. In fact, it was incredibly serene. I was blown away. Did I just die – sort of? I wondered about the light that I heard you’re supposed to see when you die. And then as if in response to my silent curiosity, I caught a glimpse of a bright diamond-shaped light far off in the distance to my left. I knew that I couldn’t go there but felt like the woman whose death experience I had just shared was headed in that direction.

When I shifted my focus back to my physical body the first thing I noticed was that my arms felt strange – like they weren’t mine. I had the sensation of having a body but not belonging to it. I tried to move but was paralyzed. I started to panic but then focused on my breathing which quickly helped me feel normal again. The clock read 8:02.

It wasn’t until years later that I put the pieces together and figured out that this unusual and disturbing vision was an invitation to walk down the shamanic path. However, a lot of questions about this experience remain a mystery to me. I’m not sure why I had this particular vision with this particular woman. I’ve since discovered that she is most likely still alive and on death row in Tennessee.

Less than a year after that experience I found myself studying under a woman in Denver who called herself a shaman. At the time, I only had a vague Hollywood idea of what a shaman was, but felt an incredible pull to learn more.

I’ve since learned that shamans have existed for tens of thousands of years on every continent. They’ve been called different things – medicine men, medicine women, priests, sorcerers, seers, healers – but they all share a universal practice. Shamans know how to intentionally alter their consciousness so that they may travel with their consciousness from the physical world to the world of spirit. Once in the spirit world they can connect with helping spirits who are incredibly powerful and eager to share their gifts of healing and divination with the souls who’ve incarnated on the earth. In order for humans to truly have free will, the spirits cannot intervene in our lives unless we invite them. So the shaman, in essence, is called by the spirits to be of service to their fellow humans in order to make a direct connection with them and have access to their gifts. (From where I stand, I’m thinking we can use all the help we can get.)

The ‘call’ typically takes the form of a serious illness, a brush with death or an unusual visionary experience. This is followed by periods of pretty intense initiation during which the blossoming shaman’s life becomes a painful mixture of disillusionment and hopelessness as his/her ego gets ripped to shreds in order to heal old wounds, fears and insecurities. This process allows for the shaman’s true self to emerge so that he/she may be a clear channel for healing and communication with the spirits. As you can imagine, it’s a lot of fun!

Interestingly, since my journey down this strange path began, my life has never made more sense. Go figure.

A couple of years ago, I decided to start coming out of the closet with my shamanic practice. This column is part of that process. Each month I’ll be sharing some of my unusual adventures while exploring the ethers. My hope is that these articles will trigger some of your own ancient memories and will help you to remember that reality is much richer – and that you are much more powerful – than you were taught to believe. And hopefully you’ll be entertained along the way!

Twylla Lannes